Beautiful cuts of short ribs bathed in herbal and salty brine for a tender and flavorful corned beef, what could be a better dinner in the middle of March. Dinner in four days, that is. This dish takes time but most wonderful things need time. Time for change, development, and blossoming. Then emerges a primed beef short rib with more depth and intense flavor than before.
The brine. It’s a salty and strong environment for the meat and interesting chemistry occurs in the process. The brine surrounding the meat has a higher concentration of salt than what’s within the meat flesh. This causes the salt ions to diffuse into the muscle cells and expand the muscle fibers, which allow more moisture to be retained within the meat fibers.
Immersed in this environment, the meat adjusts to the salt and herb content and absorbs its aromatics and flavor over time. Each passing hour, the nature of the meat is heightened into a savory and delectable piece.
Of course, the brine itself is mordant and cannot be consumed with the meat. It’s a temporary pairing that after time is rinsed away yet leaves the meat changed and enhanced with intense new flavors. Still, the meat retains the best features of the brine, saltiness, herbs, and even a little coffee.
The boil. Now the meat is packed with new flavors and aromatics, but it not quite ready. It needs a new environment, a sweeter one to balance its new flavor. Sweetness from fresh celery, cabbage, carrots, and parsnips drown into the meat for a complementing boil. In just a few hours, the meat is cooked to perfection with an ensemble of deep intensity from the brine and soft notes from the vegetables.
Voilà! The piece is ready and dinner is served
- 6 lbs of Beef Shortribs
- 3 cups of Sea Salt
- ½ cup of Coconut Sugar
- ½ cup of Raw Honey
- 3 Cinnamon Sticks
- 1 Tablespoon of Mustard Seed
- 1 Tablespoon of Peppercorn
- 1 Tablespoon of Fennel Seed
- 1 Tablespoon of Red Pepper Flakes
- 8 Whole Cloves
- 8 Whole Allspice Berries
- 12 Juniper Berries
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 cup of Coffee (optional)
- 1 Celery Heart, chopped coarsely
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 1 Cabbage Head, quartered around the stem
- 3 cups of Baby Carrots
- 6 Parsnips, cut into three inch pieces
- 6 Yukon Gold Potatoes, quartered
- ¼ cup of Horseradish
- ¼ cup of Whole Dijon Mustard
- 1-2 Tablespoons of Raw Honey
- Boil the brine ingredients with about 3 quarts of water until the salt and sugar dissolve. Let cool completely either in the fridge or room temperature.
- Place ribs at the bottom of a glass bowl and pour the brine over to completely cover the meat. Use objects such as small bowls or plates to weigh on the meat to keep it submerged in the brine.
- Cover and refrigerate for 4-5 days.
- Remove the ribs from the brine and rinse.
- Cover the ribs with water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Remove the water, rinse the ribs and bowl again, and return the ribs to the pot.
- Cover the ribs with water, add the celery, and 2 bay leaves.
- Boil for 2½ to 3 hours, until the meat is very tender.
- Add the potatoes and cabbage. Boil for about 7-10 minutes, then add the parsnip and carrots and continue to boil until carrots and potatoes are fork tender.
- Combine the ingredients for the sauce and use a few tablespoons of the broth to thin the sauce if desired.
- Adapted from The Boston Homegrown Cookbook, The Gallows entry.